We should be thankful to Clinton for declassifying the CIA files for Argo, because otherwise Ben Affleck’s film about the mission wouldn’t exist. In 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, six members of staff escaped. They took refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador before being taken out of the country by the CIA under the pretense of being a Canadian film crew scouting locations. Despite there being a lot more to the story than that, Argo focusses on the CIA’s involvement and the rescue of the six Americans whilst the revolutionaries begin to realise they are missing six people.
Affleck has been going from strength to strength with his film making, and Argo is his best yet. He has a talent for creating tension and humour without muddling the tones or making the shifts glaringly obvious. It also includes the most nerve-shreddingly tense scene in cinema this year which, when it concluded, received an audible sigh of relief from the audience and at the Gala, a cheer. Affleck’s talents as a director are clear and come through during those fifteen agonising minutes. Honestly, it’s the most tense scene since that one in Back To The Future. The cast has been well assembled with John Goodman and Alan Arkin providing the humour, Affleck himself locking his jaw into steely determination and Bryan Cranston being his usual brilliant self. It’s not as though they’ve been brought together because of who they are - they all work wonderfully. Coupled with a razor sharp script including an excellent line that has fast become a catchphrase, Affleck looks set to be showered with nominations this year. It’s not only the delivery that should and will be awarded; it’s filmed in such a way that the actual footage of the events fits in seamlessly, making the experience all the more real.
After the Tensest Scene In History, as we’re now calling it, comes a lot of self-congratulation that Affleck was obliged to put in after the Canadians demanded, and rightly so, more credit for their part in the operation. To be fair to them, it wouldn’t have happened without them but even so, the ten minutes of “Canada is great, America is great” is just the wrong side of unnecessary. Even though the Americans couldn’t claim the glory due to fears it would compromise the safety of the six, it doesn’t mean they need to catch up with it now the mission officially exists. Anyway, it doesn’t take much away from the film, just causes a few bristles.
All in all, Ben Affleck can say he’s a brilliant director now. It’s a masterclass in suspense, and beard-growing, and proves that he’s got a lot more to him than we first thought. Argo deserves to be up there with the Best Picture nominations as an intelligent and well observed thriller. It will rip your nerves to shreds and leave your heart rate sky high. Well worth a visit.